Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The whale sharks are back in Mexico - snorkel with them and learn more about this giant of the sea

Year after year thousands of whale sharks migrate to the warm waters off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, offering us an amazing spectacle. From mid May till September the areas of Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox are two of the favorite feeding spots of those giants of the sea.

Whale sharks are not whales at all but rather the world's largest fish, measuring up to 45 feet (13.7 meters) in length and weighing more than 47000lb (21.5 tons).

Despite their size the diet of whale sharks consists of plankton, small shrimp and fish. Although having thousands of teeth whale sharks are filter feeders who can neither bite nor chew. They can stretch its mouth to four feet wide and suck a huge volume of water and plankton. The water is strained through spongy tissues supported by cartilaginous rods between the whale shark's gill arches. The plankton, trapped in the gill rakers, is then swallowed. Whale sharks on average spent approximately 7.5 hours a day feeding at the surface. A whale shark can filter thousands of liters of water an hour when feeding. 

It was widely believed the whale shark reproduction process and whale shark birth was like other fish. Then in the nineties a team of scientists found a female whale shark off the eastern coast of Taiwan that had been killed by a fisherman. There were about 300 embryos inside the pregnant whale shark. Due to this discovery we know that a female whale shark keeps her eggs inside her body until the babies are ready to be born (ovoviviparous). Whale sharks have never been seen mating or giving birth. It is thought that less than 10 percent of whale sharks born survive to adulthood.

Sexual maturity in whale sharks does not occur until they reach about 30 feet (9 meters) long. This means a whale shark reproduction maturity age of about 30 years old. It is thought that whale sharks could possibly live up to 100 to 150 years! 

Whale sharks are slow swimmers (3 miles or 4.8 km per hour) and very gentle fish. They pose no threat to humans, which makes swimming with whale sharks in their natural habitat a must-do for every true adventurer.

We invite you to enjoy this lifetime experience in the Mexican Caribbean. Come to snorkel with those beautiful creatures, which bless us with their visit every year.

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